Port Elizabeth is a fixture on the South African cruise destinations circuit thanks to its wild beaches, redeveloped historic district in the city centre, and the Addo Elephant National Park (home to the ‘big five’) within easy driving distance.
Cruise terminal: There is no cruise terminal in Port Elizabeth, cruise ships dock in the small port.
Shore excursions: Shore excursions in Port Elizabeth are limited but rewarding for their quality.
Language: English primarily, but there are 11 official languages in South Africa
Staying safe: Crime can be a problem in Port Elizabeth, especially pick-pockets.
Currency: The South African rand
Port Elizabeth is an industrial port city that sits a third of the way between Cape Town and Durban within the beautiful Nelson Mandela Bay.
It is home to Victorian buildings, historic sites and a great collection of engaging public art projects. Shore excursion options include the elephant park, as well as guided township tours that provide a fascinating and poignant glimpse into the complex challenges facing the young democracy.
Luckily for most cruise tourists visiting Port Elizabeth, the Addo Elephant National Park and townships and bustling waterfront can be visited on one day as each is offered as a half day tour by most cruise lines.
Port Elizabeth also offers many historical attractions, such as the Historic Donkin Heritage trail, which takes visitors along the footsteps of the 1820 settlers. Contrary to popular belief, Port Elizabeth is not named after the British monarch of the same name, but after the wife of Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony in 1820 when the town was first established.
This British heritage is reflected in the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, which has the oldest Bowling Green in South Africa. Port Elizabeth is also home to the Alexandria Dune Fields, the largest coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere.
The cruise terminal in Port Elizabeth
There is no cruise terminal in Port Elizabeth. Cruise ships dock at a commercial quay in the small harbour from which the city takes its name, and customs formalities are conducted on-board if the port is the first entry to the country (which is extremely rare as most cruise ships make their first SA landfall in Cape Town).
Currency and language in Port Elizabeth
The South African rand is the national currency and cash machines are available throughout Port Elizabeth. South Africa has a staggering 11 official languages but English is spoken everywhere. In Port Elizabeth, despite its British history, you’re most likely to hear Afrikaans and IsiXhosa spoken locally in addition to English.
Staying safe on a cruise to Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth is a major industrial city and, as such, there is a lot of petty crime. Don’t leave valuables unattended on the beach or at restaurants and coffee shops, be discreet when handling your local currency and avoid walking alone or in small groups after dark.
Is Port Elizabeth good for shopping?
Port Elizabeth has a vibrant street sellers scene along the waterfront where South African handcrafts and curios can be purchased at a reasonable price if you haggle. African hides can be purchased by appointment from Ostrich Emporium SA and Siyalcha Dolls sells traditional Xhosa dolls. Port Elizabeth doesn’t have the best malls in the country, but The Boardwalk on Marine Drive and Greenacres are lively shopping centre where international brands and western eateries can be found.
Who cruises to Port Elizabeth?
Port Elizabeth, as the third busiest port and fifth largest city in South Africa, is a popular cruise destination. There are 56 cruise itineraries that feature the city as a port of call during 2019.
The vast majority of cruises to Cape Town (32 in 2019) are cruises that either start or end in Cape Town.
In 2019, Port Elizabeth will be visited by AIDA Cruises, Oceania, Cunard, MSC Cruises, Seabourn, Voyages to Antiquity, Crystal Cruises, Saga Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, and Fred Olsen Cruise Line.